As consumers continue to embrace online shopping, social media sites are finding new ways to encourage online purchases. Retail Week analyses how three leading social media platforms are enticing users to buy.

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Mastercard data found that 43% of UK consumers have shopped more online through social media during the pandemic, while 28% choose to shop on social media because of the ease of paying at the click of a button. 

Of the cohort who shop through social media, 92% say that they have bought items via Instagram, while 39% have purchased products through Facebook.

In a bid to tap into this burgeoning market, Facebook plans to expand its ecommerce product offering. For the first time last week, the social media giant added its Shops service onto WhatsApp and Facebook’s Marketplace platform, alongside both Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook is not the only social media platform trying to entice its users to make more purchases. Other social media sites are eager to capitalise on this growing trend, also known as social commerce. 

Search engine giant Google has plans to expand YouTube’s in-video ecommerce shopping capabilities this year, while game streaming platform Twitch is now allowing users to buy merchandise through an integrated checkout following its partnership with clothing company Spring.

Retail Week looks at three other social media sites looking to tap into this growing marketplace to drive online sales.

1. Pinterest

Pinterest on a phone

Pinterest, the platform that describes itself as “go-to inspiration”, is now positioning itself as the go-to for searches and inspiration for a customer before a potential purchase.

The image sharing site, which boasts over 450 million monthly active users, has introduced features such as shoppable pins, images that allow users to buy the product directly on Pinterest. They are formatted to include pricing info and description. Last year the company also added AR try-on for makeup products using the apps built-in camera, as well as search by image to connect users with the products they are seeking.

This month, Pinterest introduced the Pinterest shopping list, a feature that brings all product pins together for a user to review. The shopping list will also reveal prices, reviews and delivery information. Pinterest users who utilise the new feature will also receive notifications when a saved product drops in price or goes on sale. 

The Pinterest shopping list feature  launched this month in the UK and US.

The site has also created a verified merchant program, which allows users to discover and purchase from vetted brands, as well as a designated shopping search bar. 

Shopping spotlights will provide users with content related to new trends and brands, while companies can convert their product catalogues into browsable pins.

According to Pinterest: “Shopping ad revenue once again grew faster than our overall business and we saw a 6x increase in the number of businesses that used the shopping ads format in Q4 [2020].”

2. TikTok

TikTok on a mobile phone

TikTok has never hidden its ambitions to develop its social commerce capabilities. The brand revealed a global partnership with ecommerce platform Shopify in October, allowing Shopify’s over 1 million merchants to reach TikTok’s rapidly expanding audience.

The video sharing site also presented its TikTok Shop Seller University in February. This hub offers businesses the chance to get up to speed with selling on the platform, including tools the brands can utilise to increase awareness. It also outlines TikTok’s policies for sellers and the latest updates to the TikTok Shop capabilities.

Brands can sell products on their own by creating content on TikTok with product anchors embedded within the video. TikTok Affiliate is another option, allowing businesses to set promotion plans and collaborate with established creators to showcase products. These users can then automatically earn commission on any sales, according to the Financial Times

The platform, owned by Chinese company Bytedance, is also considering live streamed shopping channels on the app.

3. Snap

Snapchat mobile

Snap, owner of Snapchat, has accelerated its own social commerce strategy in recent months. 

Snap acquired Screenshop, which allows users to take an image of friends’ outfits or upload an image of an outfit. Screenshop, described as the Shazam of fashion, will then show users recommendations based on the clothing in the images, allowing them to shop from hundreds of brands.

This feature has already been integrated into the app under its scan feature, increasing the app’s shoppable capabilities.

In March, the photo sharing app acquired a German firm called Fit Anaytics for an undisclosed sum.

Fit Analytics’ main product is Fitfinder utilised by Asos, Calvin Klein, Patagonia and Pull&Bear among others. Fitfinder utilises machine leanring and is used by businesses to help customers choose the right size when purchasing online.

Although Snap has yet to integrate Fitfinder onto its platform, it has led to speculation that Snap was continuing to increase its capabilities in the area of social commerce.

In a statement about the acquisition, Fit Analytics said: “Our main focus going forward will be to scale the Fit Analytics business and work with Snap to grow their shopping platform, leveraging our technology and expertise.” 

With the largest international players in social media increasing their ecommerce capabilities, social commerce is quickly becoming another important retail channel. 

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